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Smith’s name may not be synonymous with on field triumphs and trophy laden seasons at Everton, but there was so much more to it than this. The fact that he steered the ship through one of the most tumultuous periods in the clubs history deserves its own recognition.
Arriving at Everton in 1998 and serving until 2002, the intelligent and softly spoken Smith would preside over a club in dire financial straights. Never one to shy away from the issues, he would face the press with the same dignity and gravitas in victory or defeat. There were certainly high points as well, not least a 1-0 derby win over old rivals Liverpool. In particular, I remember attending a 5-0 demolition of Sunderland – a game which provided rare euphoria for us blues during a dark period.
A measure of the man is how he managed to bridge footballing divides. Nothing was mentioned at Everton about his hugely successful stint as assistant to Reds legend Graeme Souness at Rangers – a where Walter was hugely successful. He won 10 SPL titles and brought a footballing dominance of Ghengis Khan like proportions, he did it all with a wry smile and a withering look for whoever deserved the respective response.
A very sad day for football. Walter Smith OBE, former Rangers, Scotland and Everton manager, has passed away. A man held in high regard by all his players.
Our thoughts are with Walter’s loved ones at this tough time. 💙
— Everton (@Everton) October 26, 2021
Walter served as Scotland manager, bringing in as his assistants Rangers legend Ally Mcoist, and Celtic icon Tommy Burns, another example of the man’s ability to unite rather than divide, people followed him because they trusted him, this passionate and fiercely intelligent Scot who sought to improve and educate wherever he landed. A mission that if you listen to any of his contemporaries you will find he achieved with great aplomb.
At Everton he was another victim of a club in turmoil, any blue nose will tell you with no doubt that the Peter Johnson years were some of the darkest they have encountered in their time supporting Everton, Walter did not become a symbol of the decay happening inside Goodison but rather a paragon of a man fighting tooth and nail to stem the tide of mediocrity permeating through the great club.
Of course you cannot mention Walter without mentioning Archie Knox; his sidekick, best friend and confidant. Archie was perceived as the fire to Walters ice – a tough no nonsense Scot who treated every game as a war of contrition. Though anyone who knew anything of their dynamic understood that the same rod of iron ran through both men.
Walter was a manager who had his star player sold out from under him, when the dastardly Johnson constructed a deal behind closed boardroom doors to sell Duncan Ferguson to Newcastle. Even in the face of this betrayal and the toxic fan backlash that followed he held himself with dignity, grace and professionalism. But then, what more would we expect from Walter?
As a lifelong Blue I consider myself a pragmatist. We know where we stand and we respect a straight answer and an honest appraisal. We always got that from Walter. Even in the eye of the storm he held his head high and stuck by what he believed in. He was a man of class – a rare hybrid of achievement coupled with no sense of superiority.
Walter I want to thank you for those 4 years. I want to thank you for your grace and candour. mostly I want to thank you for knowing what it was to be a Blue and always giving us everything you had. The great football field in the sky has become more crowded these last months, but it can surely only now be a richer place for the presence of Walter Smith.
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